What Does a Well-Mitigated Forest Look Like?

Dead or over-stressed forest - US Fish & Wildlife Service
Dead or over-stressed forest – US Fish & Wildlife Service

In 1944, the longest-running public service campaign in US history took off with the now-familiar message, “Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires”.

Now we have come to realize that this well-meaning approach has had devastating consequences. Our western forests, which evolved with fire as a controlling mechanism to prevent overgrowth, have become grossly overgrown. We’re looking at hundreds of wildfires all over the country, millions of acres and hundreds (if not thousands) of homes charred each year, smoke blanketing the country from coast-to-coast. Wildfire seasons are longer, wildfires burn hotter, hot enough to create their own weather patterns.

Most who are reading this post have moved up into the Front Range since fire suppression was the ruling of the day, so we’re used to seeing forest that resembles something like this:

And in recent years we’ve been serenaded with instructions on how to mitigate the forest on our land, and why we should do so. Few residents have ever seen what these forests used to look like before Smokey Bear came on the scene.

This is what the Ponderosa forests used to look like…mature trees widely spaced. Undergrowth removed by small, fast-moving, lower-temperature fires that occurred every few decades. Open lines of sight through which forest dwellers – deer, elk, bear – could move with safety.

This is Genesee Mountain. In recent years, Denver Mountain Parks conducted forest mitigation on this land. The slash that is an inevitable part of mitigation was chipped and spread out over the land, helping to restrain the growth of excess brush in the understory. This is what properly mitigated forest should look like.

Now that you’ve got the picture, read more about how to mitigate for wildfire in our Fire Season section. This year (2021) Jeffco is offering slash collection every weekend through the end of October, so maybe now is a good time to start that mitigation project, or just a general clean-up around the house? And as always, neighbors and friends, stay safe, stay well.

Last update: 8/25/2021